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AMD Radeon HD 6450 Review: Caicos Cometh

AMD Radeon HD 6450 Review: Caicos Cometh
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AMD populates the entry-level tier with its new Radeon HD 6450, based on the Caicos graphics processor. Does this board have what it takes to stand out in the crowded sub-$100 market and vie for a spot in your next home theater PC?

Hot on the heels of its Radeon HD 6790, AMD is releasing another new graphics card today. This time, the target is the sub-$60 price range, bringing Radeon HD 6000-series features to the entry-level market. Meet the Radeon HD 6450.

Low-end graphics cards account for the bulk of sales, and that means competition; the Radeon HD 5450, Radeon HD 5550, GeForce GT 220 and GeForce GT 430 are only a few of the models that you'll have to consider if you're looking for alternatives. Before we compare them, let’s see what this new Caicos GPU has to offer:

So, this card's Caicos core is based on the same architecture that we first saw in the Barts GPU, which drives the Radeon HD 6800-series cards. The new model is far less complex, with only one-seventh of the Radeon HD 6870’s compute resources. Instead of 14 SIMD engines, the Caicos has two, each containing four texture units and 16 stream processors. With 5 ALUs per stream processor (yes, we're still talking about the older VLIW5 design, not the newer VLIW4 arrangement featured on Cayman), the resulting total is 160. These are coupled to a single render back-end with four color ROPs, attached to a lone 64-bit memory controller.

It’s as though AMD paid close attention to our Radeon HD 5450 review in February of 2010, where we said: “It is unfortunate that that the SIMD engines have been cut in half compared to the GPUs found on… …higher models that sport a more robust 16 stream processors per.” Each of Caicos’ SIMDs sport the same specifications as Barts', so we can expect a sizable performance gain over the Radeon HD 5450.

But that’s not the only improvement. The Radeon HD 6450 comes in two flavors of memory technology: DDR3 and GDDR5. Since GDDR5 memory doubles the theoretical throughput of DDR3, given the same base clock, this option should compensate for the narrow 64-bit memory interface.

Finally, like all products in the Radeon HD 6000 family, this latest model improves tessellation performance, includes Eyefinity enhancements, and, of course, features UVD 3, including the ability to accelerate Blu-ray 3D video over HDMI 1.4a.

Now that we have a good idea how powerful the Radeon HD 6450 should be, let’s take a closer look at the playing field:


Radeon HD 5450
Radeon HD 6450Radeon HD 5550GeForce GT 220GeForce GT 430
Shader Cores:
80
160
320
4896
Texture Units:
8
8
16
1616
Color ROPs:
4
4
8
84
Fabrication process:
40 nm
40 nm40 nm40 nm40 nm
Core/Shader Clock:
650 MHz
625 MHz DDR3
750 MHz GDDR5
550 MHz
625/1360 MHz700/1400 MHz
Memory Clock:
400 MHz DDR2
800 MHz DDR3
533-800 MHz DDR3
800-900 MHz GDDR5
900 MHz DDR3
790 MHz DDR3900 MHz DDR3
Memory Bus:
64-bit
64-bit128-bit
128-bit128-bit
Memory Bandwidth:
6.4 GB/s DDR2
12.8 GB/s DDR3
8.5-12.8 GB/s DDR3
25.6-28.8 GB/s GDDR5
28.8 GB/s DDR325.3 GB/s DDR328.8 GB/s DDR3
Thermal Design Power (W)
19.1 W
(typical)
20 W DDR3
27 W GDDR5
(typical)
40 W
(maximum)
58 W
(maximum)
42.7 W
(maximum)


We can see a clear evolution from the Radeon HD 5450 and Radeon HD 6450,, with only the number of stream processors doubled. This should enable a quantifiable performance difference, though. And when it's equipped with GDDR5, the new card should serve up modest gaming results.

The Radeon HD 5550 is far more interesting competition. It essentially doubles all of the Radeon HD 6450’s specifications: 320 shader processors, 16 texture units, and 8 ROPs operating on a 128-bit memory interface. Although the GDDR5-equipped version of the 6450 might match the older board's memory bandwidth, its higher core clock does not compensate for its resource deficiency. Of course, the Radeon HD 5550 doesn’t support Blu-ray 3D decode acceleration, though it is capable of playing back this format over HDMI 1.4a. It simply relies on more host processing to power through the decode pipeline.

The GeForce GT 220 DDR2 is also priced similarly to the Radeon HD 6450 GDDR5, and while it sports a powerful GPU and a 128-bit memory interface, it is crippled by slower DDR2 memory. Ironically, despite Nvidia’s lead in 3D alacrity, this card is not capable of playing back Blu-ray 3D over HDMI. The GeForce GT 430 is Nvidia’s lowest-end card capable of this feat, and it typically costs about $70 (although a couple models can be found for $10 cheaper than that online). Indeed, with twice as many shader cores as the GT 220, the GeForce GT 430 may offer the strongest competition for the 6450 on both the HTPC and gaming fronts.

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Top Comments
  • 13 Hide
    aznguy0028 , April 7, 2011 5:35 AM
    Toms, when are you going to fix your thumbs up/down rating thing?
Other Comments
  • 1 Hide
    mikenygmail , April 7, 2011 5:26 AM
    AMD is destroying Nvidia in every possible way, and it's only a matter of time before AMD catches up to and surpassed Intel again!
  • 13 Hide
    aznguy0028 , April 7, 2011 5:35 AM
    Toms, when are you going to fix your thumbs up/down rating thing?
  • 2 Hide
    dragonsqrrl , April 7, 2011 5:46 AM
    mikenygmailAMD is destroying Nvidia in every possible way, and it's only a matter of time before AMD catches up to and surpassed Intel again!

    hmm... that's not exactly the impression I got after actually reading the review. Maybe you should try do the same. So Nvidia is getting destroyed because an ultra low-end discrete graphics card from AMD offers decent HTPC performance in comparison to the GT430? lol... And where did that thing about Intel come from?

    Anyway, I would argue that gaming performance definitely isn't at the top of peoples priority list when purchasing a card in this price range. People tend to purchase $60 cards for low power, cool, and quiet media PC operation. And at least in this category the HD6450 offers solid competition for the GT430.
  • 3 Hide
    cangelini , April 7, 2011 5:56 AM
    aznguy0028Toms, when are you going to fix your thumbs up/down rating thing?


    Still waiting on the French dev team to let me know when it's going to unbreak that feature that previously worked fine ;-)
  • 0 Hide
    rolli59 , April 7, 2011 6:52 AM
    Nice to see such a big performance leap on the low range cards.
  • 1 Hide
    ScrewySqrl , April 7, 2011 7:16 AM
    It would have been interesting to add your i5-2500K on its own to the comparison chart. The HD3000 has been favorably compared to the 5450 in the past, so how would it compare with the new 6450?
  • 0 Hide
    machvelocy , April 7, 2011 7:46 AM
    just curious... will there be "hybrid crossfire" when this card is paired by a llano?
  • 1 Hide
    Jarmo , April 7, 2011 7:47 AM
    So this doesn't require a power connector? Because that's a big thing when suggesting a replacement card for a couple of years old supermarket PC with an unknown but underpowered power supply. Seems this would fit the bill, being low-power, cheap & quiet.
  • -2 Hide
    mikenygmail , April 7, 2011 8:17 AM
    dragonsqrrlhmm... that's not exactly the impression I got after actually reading the review. Maybe you should try do the same. So Nvidia is getting destroyed because an ultra low-end discrete graphics card from AMD offers decent HTPC performance in comparison to the GT430? lol... And where did that thing about Intel come from?Anyway, I would argue that gaming performance definitely isn't at the top of peoples priority list when purchasing a card in this price range. People tend to purchase $60 cards for low power, cool, and quiet media PC operation. And at least in this category the HD6450 offers solid competition for the GT430.


    Maybe you should try not making baseless assumptions. Nvidia's graphics cards are overpriced and weaker than AMD's at just about every possible price point. The GTX 550 Ti is a failure, and as you pointed out yourself, even this new AMD HTPC offering offers solid competition for the GT430.

    It was totally ridiculous for tomshardware to post the "Best Graphics Card for the Money" article the day before the AMD 6990 article, (to exclude AMD's new flag ship card) and then even more ridiculous to title the article "AMD Radeon HD 6990 4 GB Review: Antilles Makes (Too Much) Noise." This site obviously favors Nvidia and is paid well to do so, I'm just leveling the playing field a bit.

    Also, don't use "lol" and limit your "..." usage, it makes you look bad.
  • -2 Hide
    mikenygmail , April 7, 2011 8:20 AM
    Minor correction of my first post: AMD is destroying Nvidia in every possible way, and it's only a matter of time before AMD catches up to and surpasses Intel again!
  • -1 Hide
    bobdozer , April 7, 2011 10:26 AM
    By the way don, you can pick up a 5570 for $65 ($50 with rebate!) Why didn't you include that in the review?
  • 1 Hide
    ta152h , April 7, 2011 10:51 AM
    I'm a little surprised, and disappointed, that you guys didn't review the silent card.

    In this market, as others have pointed out, 3D gaming isn't paramount, but lower power and sound volume is. For that reason, I think information on the DDR3 version might be more interesting to most people.

    Having to use a fan for something so underpowered probably isn't very attractive for many people
  • 2 Hide
    kkiddu , April 7, 2011 10:56 AM
    @bobdozer But they had a AMD equivalent as well. Comparing a card with a poorer and a faster card helps people to get a perspective as to what they get in this budget, what will they get if they somehow manage to extend it, and what is the competition offering.

    @mikenygmail

    Last time I checked, AMD was two generations behind Intel in performance. That's a lot to catch up, and we haven't seen any Bulldozer benchmarks yet.

    As for Nvidia being pwned, its performance at the higher end is comparable to AMD. 460 onwards, performance at similar price points is nearly equal.

    And if you had checked the noise comparison videos between 6990 and 590 posted on this site itself, Antilles did make too much noise.

    Give the guys a break.
  • 0 Hide
    kkiddu , April 7, 2011 10:59 AM
    PS : Before you accuse me of being a fanboy, I'd like to point that I don't any graphics card at all (Ok, you can laugh on that). I'm using an absolutely joke-of-a-video-card VIA onboard GPU from 2004. And when I do get an upgrade, it will be based on what offers the most bang for buck and not if it's from the green team or from the red team.
  • -1 Hide
    iam2thecrowe , April 7, 2011 11:08 AM
    so, if you really want a low end gpu, get a 5570 right? anything less is pointless. Anyone wanting 3D blueray accelleration has the cash to blow on a 3dtv setup would buy a decent vid card.
  • 2 Hide
    bobdozer , April 7, 2011 11:35 AM
    The point of this is using a geforce card in an AMD review, claiming that its much better because it is within $5 of the cost. However if you add another $5 you can get a 5570 which blows away the Nvidia card.

    Why stop at the 430? It should never have been in this review but you have to make sure Nvidia is at the top right?
  • 0 Hide
    silverblue , April 7, 2011 12:03 PM
    kkiddu60 onwards, performance at similar price points is nearly equal.


    Yes, but it'll be costing NVIDIA more at the same time.
  • 0 Hide
    cleeve , April 7, 2011 12:42 PM
    bobdozerBy the way don, you can pick up a 5570 for $65 ($50 with rebate!) Why didn't you include that in the review?


    Um... I did. Check the last page, bro... "Starting at $55, the GDDR5-based version of the Radeon HD 6450 is much closer to tough competition from Nvidia's GeForce GT 430 and AMD's own Radeon HD 5570, which makes it impossible to recommend."
  • 0 Hide
    cleeve , April 7, 2011 12:44 PM
    TA152HI'm a little surprised, and disappointed, that you guys didn't review the silent card.


    We review what AMD decides to supply us with for the launch. They chose to submit only the GDDR5 model, unfortunately.
  • 0 Hide
    belardo , April 7, 2011 1:43 PM
    greghomeBring the HD6670 to retail


    The 6600 and 6700s (not the 6790 thou) are already out in retail. They just called the 5670, 5750 and 5770...
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